Friday, June 1, 2012

Is Bost outburst worth noting?

Our state’s General Assembly spent their spring months trying to balance a budget with a big hole, while also trying unsuccessfully to resolve the long-festering shortfalls in pension funding and having to deal with healthcare for lower-income residents.
BOST: This week's legislative highlight?

Yet why do I suspect that the lingering image most people will have of the Illinois Legislature for this year, and perhaps for some time, is the site of Mike Bost having a hissy-fit and losing control while on the Illinois House floor?

THE VIDEO SNIPPET of Bost, a Republican from in and around Carbondale in Southern Illinois, is all over the Internet. We get to see him throw his papers in the air and punch at them as they fall back to his desk top (and the floor).

We got to hear him say some dirty words (unless we happened to view it on television, in which the profanities were blipped out).

The incident occurred Tuesday, and doesn’t seem to want to die – because it is the kind of stupid, trivial moment that needs no context to comprehend. A p-o’ed legislator loses his temper!

I literally woke up Thursday morning, turned on a television, and got treated to the sight of Bost on a national news broadcast – with one-time Chicago newswoman Robin Meade getting a chuckle about our state’s crazed politicos.

SOMEHOW, I HAVE a feeling that people will remember Bost longer than they remember whatever attempt at a pension funding solution our Legislature tried to concoct in its final hours of the 2012 spring session.

I also suspect that Bost on Tuesday managed to write the lede to his obituary. I’m not saying he’s on the verge of death, either literally or politically. There may even be some people who gain respect for him because of his outburst.

But it will be the lasting image many of us will have of the man, even though he has served in the Illinois House since 1995 (which means he’s been around long-enough to remember the two-year aberration when Republicans ran roughshod over Madigan and Democrats)  and doesn’t seem to be in any political danger of being dumped on an Election Day anytime soon.

Even though, by government standards, Bost’s outburst doesn’t seem all that outrageous. Sadly enough, neither is the reason why he was upset.

FOR THE RECORD, it was because of the aforementioned pension reform issue. A possible reform plan was presented to legislators, who were then asked to consider a vote on it.

Bost claims he only had 20 minutes to try to digest the content of several hundred pages of content related to the issue. He tried to turn this into a matter of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, ram-rodding partisan measures through the General Assembly by keeping the legislators ignorant.

Which is true enough, but not just on this issue. Way too many legislators vote on measures based solely on the couple paragraph summary they get presented by their leaders.

By “leaders,” I’m including the Republican leadership – who often keep their members in a tight rank-and file when it comes to casting votes on bills. This really isn't anything new.

THERE’S ALSO ONE other factor to consider when trying to put the Bost hissy-fit into context – it was a one-man operation, which makes it lesser in my mind.

Let’s not forget the incident near the end of last year when state Sens. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, and Mike Jacobs, D-Moline, had to be separated from what could have become a physical brawl.

That moment got so out-of-hand that McCarter literally tried to get the Sangamon County state’s attorney’s office to prosecute Jacobs on criminal charges – claiming he was assaulted with a punch to his chest. Fortunately for common sense, prosecutors didn’t get involved.

Although to some of us, the grand-daddy of all legislative outbursts will be that moment when now-retired state Reps. Bill Black of Danville and Terry Parke of suburban Hoffman Estates let their tempers get the best of them during a 1992 legislative debate over public education funding.

DID THEY PUNCH each other? Did they push and shove? Who had the better “form?”

Even now, some two decades later, it still can be a topic of discussion for political observers to quibble over – in between those “high-minded” policy talks about issues that often delve to the level of “Where’s mine?” and “Who gets dumped on more?”


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